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Scenes from A New Music Seance [OM-1019-2]

Scenes From A New Music Séance: Kate Stenberg, violin & Eva-Maria Zimmermann, piano 

Works by Ronald Bruce Smith, Josef Matthias Hauer, Henry Cowell, Charles Amirkhanian, Ruth Crawford, George Antheil, Alan Hovhaness, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Amy X Neuburg, and Henning Christiansen

 

 

A truly heterogeneous collection–the whole thing including, not excluding. To listen to this CD from one end to the other is an inspiring journey. "Double" has had some fine performances before, but none like this. I am grateful–and moved. The coloring of the sounds, the precision of the rhythms and the forming of the phrases–very convincing. – Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Copenhagen

 Since 1993, Other Minds in San Francisco has produced an annual music festival comprising only music of living composers who themselves are in attendance. Over the years, Conlon Nancarrow, Meredith Monk, Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, Laurie Anderson, Sam Rivers, Per Nørgård, La Monte Young, Louis Andriessen, and Ge Gan-ru, Philip Glass, and Peter Sculthorpe have been among the 164 guests at our festivals.

Other Minds composers mostly are individualists who have made a point of doing things their own way. They invent new instruments, strategies or techniques that are very personal and that announce their creators as boundary pushers.

But these individualists flourished because others, equally daring, led the way. Where would Conlon Nancarrow have been without the inspiration of Henry Cowell who suggested the idea of using a player piano to compose and perform multiple melodies simultaneously at different speeds? How would Sam Rivers have learned music arranging and composition without lessons from the only composer who would take a young and impoverished African-American jazz musician in the late 1940s— Alan Hovhaness?  

At some point it seemed appropriate that Other Minds honor the deceased progenitors of American experimental music by presenting their music side by side with their spiritual offspring. And thus was born “A New Music Séance”—a short series of day-long concerts events held in 2005, 2007 and 2008 at the rustic and historic Swedenborgian Church, built in 1895 in San Francisco.
The printed concert programs were subtitled, somewhat tongue in cheek, “Summoning the specters of musical forbears, channeling the spirits of their successors”—carrying forward the séance conceit.

These three mini-marathons were performed by pianist Sarah Cahill, who has recorded many of her contributions to the event on solo CD releases from various labels, and the previously-unrecorded violin-piano duo of Kate Stenberg and Eva-Maria Zimmermann, both of whom have nurtured an abiding interest in modernist and contemporary music—and both of whom hail from distinguished musical families. The atmosphere of the concerts and the sense of “séance” were enhanced both by the intimate interior of the church, seating slightly more than 100, and the sold out crowds that streamed into the hall, evocatively lit by chandeliers of burning candles, furnished with handmade wicker chairs instead of pews, and warmed by a roaring blaze in a massive brick fireplace. Before long, the New Music Séance became a much-anticipated event on the San Francisco Bay Area musical calendar. 

These recordings, made in the studios of Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, California, and beautifully miked and overseen by one of America’s most accomplished producers, Judith Sherman, enable us to hear these rare, but lesser-known gems from the violin repertory without the intrusion of the Swedenborgian’s crackling fire, and with the focused, sometimes fiery, energy of the performers convincingly captured.       – (Charles Amirkhanian)

Track Listing:

1 Ronald Bruce Smith: Tombeau (2006)* 5:56
2 Josef Matthias Hauer: Jazz (from Fünf Stücke, 1925) 1:23
3 Henry Cowell: Ballade (from Violin Sonata, 1945) 2:59
4 Charles Amirkhanian: Rippling the Lamp (2006-7)*’ 7:40  

Ruth Crawford: Sonata for Violin and Piano (1925-6) 14:48
5 (1) Vibrante, agitato 4:57
6 (2) Buoyant 3:20
7 (3) Mistico, intense 2:49
8 (4) Allegro 3:33 

9 George Antheil: Sonata No. 2 for Violin, Piano and Drums
(1923) 8:13
with Charles Amirkhanian, bass and tenor drums 

Alan Hovhaness: Khirgiz Suite (1951) 5:45
10 (1) Variations 3:09
11 (2) A Khirgiz Tala 1:38
12 (3) Allegro molto 1:19  

Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen: Double (1994) 13:19
13 I 5:14
14 II 8:01 

15 Amy X Neuburg: Nonette (2010) 4:00*’
16 Henning Christiansen: Den Arkadiske, Op. 32 (1966) 10:35 

* world premiere recording, *’ for violin solo with pre-recorded media

Reviews:

"Stenberg and Eva-Maria Zimmermann deliver each piece with commendable commitment, and Judith Sherman's sound is very fine . . .  Finest of all is Ruth Crawford's Sonata (1926), a superb four-movement work in the American pioneer tradition."

–Guy Rickards, Gramophone, January 2013

"In addition to its long-running annual celebration of living composers, the Other Minds Festival has recently taken to presenting a series puckishly titled "New Music Séances," since many of the composers involved are dead (this is what other organizations call "concerts"). On this beautifully produced CD, the excellent duo of violinist Kate Stenberg and pianist Eva-Maria Zimmermann offers a sampling from recent events, combining older works with a sprinkling of handsome premieres. The disc begins with a winningly ghostly tone, set by Ronald Bruce Smith's beautiful "Tombeau" and Charles Amirkhanian's mournful "Rippling the Lamp." Then it's into a variety of mid-20th century Americana by Ruth Crawford (the abrasive and powerful Sonata for Violin and Piano), George Antheil and Alan Hovhaness, before winding up with the brilliant high comedy of Amy X Neuberg's commissioned "Nonette" and "Den Arkadiske," a poker-faced piece of minimalist performance art by the late Danish composer Henning Christiansen. . . the duo plays all of them with tenderness and high spirits."

–Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, January 6, 2013 

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